Bill West and little brother, A.J., attend a Denver Bronco football game
NASHVILLE, Tenn.––Several hundred UM men are serving as big brothers to children of prison inmates through the Amachi program of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“Amachi” is a Nigerian Ibo word that means “Who knows but what God has brought us through this child.”
Amachi mentors meet weekly with a child who has been carefully matched with them; they often live and worship in the same neighborhoods as the children. Amachi’s hope is that one-to-one mentoring by caring adults will significantly improve the life opportunities of the children.
There are 7.3 million children who have one or both parents under some form of state or federal supervision. Without effective intervention, 70 percent of these children will likely follow their parent’s path into jail or prison. The Amachi mentoring program was developed to provide them with a different path - by establishing the consistent presence of loving, caring people of faith.
Experience in Denver
Bill West, president of Rocky Mountain Conference of UM Men, has been a big brother to A.J. since January 2012. “Our relationship is strong,” says West. “AJ looks forward to our outings each week.”
Last fall, AJ was one of the winners of an essay contest on bullying. AJ subsequently took Bill to a Denver Bronco football games after his winning entry resulted in two free two tickets to the Bronco-Raven football game.
The Rev. Wilson Goode, former mayor of Philadelphia and founder of Amachi in 2000, says the program now covers 49 states.
“One adult giving one hour each week to one child for one year will break the cycle of jail,” said Goode. “This commitment has resulted in 2/3rds of the children improving both their grades and school attendance. Over 80% now say they trust other people more.”
Goode says he began the program because of his own experience as the son of an incarcerated man. A school counselor told him he was a “farm boy and should never plan on going to college.” However, Goode’s pastor and wife became his big brother and sister and helped send him to college and on to become a two-term mayor of Philadelphia.